Kids 3D-printing company Toybox Labs has signed a licensing agreement with London-based Beano Studios to add the characters from Beano’s animated series Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed to its available characters. This is Toybox’s first licensing deal, and under the agreement, users will be able to print out 3D versions of the show’s characters for between US$2 and US$5.
Toybox, which sells its own 3D printer for US$300, also hosts a platform of more than 2000 free character designs (anything from a zombie to a teddy bear) and users can also create and print their own original creations. Unlike the original designs, access to licensed characters will cost users a few dollars in order to make sure licensees get a return on their investment, says CEO Ben Baltes.
Toybox was motivated to expand into licensing after seeing a demand from its users for well-known faces, and being able to bring toys to kids faster than traditional toycos usually can, says Baltes.
“Where some products based on a show could take a year, or year-and-a-half to hit shelves, we can bring kids favorite characters to our platform and have them ready to be printed in a week,” says Baltes.
The company has more than 10,000 active monthly users, 95% of which are in the US and most between four- and 12-years-old, says Baltes. So, partnering with Toybox can be a quick way for brands popular elsewhere to grow their presence and launch CP in the country, he adds. For example, Dennis & Gnasher is big in the UK, but not as well-known in the US.
Beano Studios’ animated series (104 x 11 minutes) follows Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher as they cause havoc. Based on the long running British comic strip, UK kid pubcaster CBBC ordered a second season of Beano’s show last February, and the series, which launched in 2017, was the highest-rated animated show on the network for six- to 12-year-olds, and a top-10 show for kids across all channels, according to CBBC.
Since its launch, UK distributor Jetpack has sold the series to international broadcasters, including Super RTL (Germany), ABC (Australia), SIC (Portugal), YLE (Finland), Emirates Cable (United Arab Emirates), Rai (Italy), VTMKIDS (Belgium), TV Derana (Sri Lanka), TVNZ (New Zealand), ClanTVE (Spain), SVT Barn (Sweden), France Télévisions and RTÉ (Ireland) and Netflix, which debuted the show in the US in 2018.
Toybox plans to drum up interest for the brand Stateside by sharing the show’s trailer with users and promoting the brand through its interface.
Although Toybox’s licensing approach is unique, 3D printing itself isn’t new to the kids space. In the last decade a number of toycos have hopped on the tech capitalizing on the maker trend and its faster-speed-to-market potential. Australia’s Moose Toys launched a US$25 printer, which lets kids create characters in an eight-bit art style in 2016, while Mattel teamed up software design company Autodesk to a new line of apps that make 3D printing more accessible to kids the year before. Taking a more direct-to-consumer strategy, Hasbro joined forces with 3D-printing marketplace Shapeways in 2014 to launch the SuperFanArt site where artists can market and sell their 3D creations based on Hasbro’s brands.
The popularity of 3D printing probably isn’t going anywhere either, as the worldwide market for 3D printing products and services is predicted to climb 22.5% to around US$35.6 billion by 2024, according to market research firm Statista.
Heading into the future the Toybox is looking to grow its licensing business with new characters and toys, says Baltes.
The next step is now to draw in more partners and users. Toybox is looking for additional licensing partners to work with in the future, and Baltes thinks the company’s strategy of letting kids create their own toys using simple tech will draw them in.